Mondial Article (Winter 2023)
How a World Federation Can Respect and Protect LGBTQI+ Rights
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DeMarinis joined CGS as Social Media and Communications Coordinator in 2022. He sits on the boards of Anne’s Haven, a Chicago-area nonprofit dedicated to women’s empowerment, and Chicago Peace Action.
How can world federalism ensure human rights and the equality of all people, including LGBTQI+ persons? This critical topic is the focus of this article. According to Citizens for Global Solutions, the US member organization of the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy, world federalist organizations advocate for universal human rights partly by promoting the universal ratification and efficacy of the eight core United Nations (UN) Human Rights Treaties and their optional protocols, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). However, this article posits that these international human rights treaties reflect the political and social realities of the 20th century. Since the creation of these human rights frameworks, the struggles of previously overlooked groups of people, including LGBTQI+ persons, to achieve equality have come to the fore. If the movement for democratic world federation is to effectively advocate for stronger global governance with respect to human rights in the 21st century, it is crucial that we address these evolving social and political realities.
CURRENT CHALLENGES FACING LGBTQI+ PEOPLE
Eliminating discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons both in the US and globally can be seen as a key step toward achieving universal compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Per the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “protecting LGBTI persons from violence and discrimination does not require a new set of human rights laws or standards…. It is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Thus, while the UDHR does not explicitly reference the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights interprets the international human rights framework laid out in the UDHR as covering the rights of LGBTQI+ persons.
While significant progress has been made in some areas, particularly regarding marriage equality – as noted by LGBTQ Nation in its list of “7 International LGBTQ+ rights advances in 2022” – the LGBTQI+ community still faces discrimination and violence worldwide that have hindered their full and equal participation in society. For example, in June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQI+ people in the US due to increasing hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community and anti-LGBTQI+ legislation. This troubling trend is reflected globally: according to Human Rights Watch, the rights of LGBTQI+ people around the world are seriously compromised, as in Uganda, where President Museveni recently signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law, mandating the death penalty for anyone guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”
PRECEDENTS FOR GLOBAL PROTECTION OF LGBTQI+ RIGHTS
One of the earliest instances of a UN body addressing discrimination against the LGBTQI+ community was the case of Toonen vs. Australia in 1994. According to Communication No. 488/1992, submitted to the Human Rights Committee by Nicholas Toonen, Toonen, a resident of the Australian state of Tasmania, challenged two provisions of the Tasmanian Criminal Code that criminalized sexual relations between men before the UN Human Rights Committee, which is charged with ensuring the implementation of the ICCPR. Toonen argued that these provisions violated Articles 17 and 26 – among others – of the ICCPR, which focus on the right to privacy and anti- discrimination. The Committee determined that the criminal code was indeed a violation of Mr. Toonen’s rights under the ICCPR, mandating a reversal of the offending provisions. Importantly, this legal case established a precedent of existing international human rights frameworks being applied to protect LGBTQI+ rights.
Subsequently, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a resolution in June of 2011 – A/HRC/RES/17/19 – condemning discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The resolution also commissioned a report on the status of anti- LGBTQI+ violence and discrimination from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Furthermore, a 2016 UN HRC resolution, A/HRC/RES/32/2, established the office of an Independent Expert on the topic. The independent expert is responsible for raising awareness of anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination and cooperating with civil society and state actors to identify how international human rights law can safeguard LGBTQI+ rights. One of the first reports prepared by the independent expert – Victor Madrigal-Borloz, in May of 2018 (A/HRC/38/43) – probes the complexities of anti-LGBTQI+ sentiment, underscoring the fact that anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination is rooted in a desire to force LGBTQI+ persons to conform to preconceived notions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Some of the Independent Expert’s recommendations from this report include exhorting countries to repeal laws criminalizing same- sex relations and gender identity and build databases to track violence and discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons.
Civil society actors have also played a significant role in advancing universal rights for LGBTQI+ rights. For example, in 2006, a prominent group of international human rights experts met in Indonesia to devise a set of international principles, the Yogyakarta Principles, which explicitly link the rights of LGBTQI+ people to universal human rights. The Yogyakarta Principles include the “right to state protection” from violence and discrimination, the right to privacy (specifically with regard to one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity), and the right to “equality and non-discrimination” with respect to sexual orientation and gender identity. These mirror provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) including Article 12 (privacy) and Article 7 (equality, state protection, and non-discrimination). The Yogyakarta Principles also include recommendations regarding how to implement the principles, including ensuring that “national human rights institutions” include efforts to protect LGBTQI+ rights under the umbrella of their human rights advocacy. While the Principles have not been incorporated into an international treaty (they are merely guidelines and do not constitute binding international law), by connecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons to widely accepted human rights frameworks like the UDHR, they provide a solid foundation for protecting LGBTQI+ rights around the world.
More recently, civil society organizations including MADRE and Outright International have launched a campaign to demand the inclusion of explicit protections for women and LGBTQI+ people in the new proposed Treaty on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity, which was under debate by the Sixth Committee of the UN in October. The treaty has been hailed by some LGBTQI+ advocates for its departure from the Rome Statute definition of gender as a binary construction, although that has provoked heated debate among States Parties.
WORLD FEDERALIST LGBTQI+ TOOLKIT
A democratic world federation is premised on the understanding that a sustainable future for humankind depends on empowered global governance institutions and stronger international law. Such a sustainable future for all entails protecting human rights, as defined by the UDHR and corpus of human rights law, which for LGBTQI+ rights, should include the Yogyakarta Principles. Unfortunately, the world federalist movement has not yet made an effective case for how democratic world federation can protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons. However, there are several ways in which the world federalist movement can advocate for LGBTQI+ rights. My recommendations can be viewed as a series of “steps,” each progressively advocating for more robust international law and the creation of new global institutions and mechanisms to advance LGBTQI+ rights.
ENFORCING EXISTING INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL TREATY LAW
- Advocating for regional courts and bodies to interpret regional human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, in an inclusive way that protects LGBTQI+ A successful example is the Inter-American Court on Human Rights which interpreted the American Convention on Human Rights as covering LGBTQI+ rights. In “Consultative Opinion 24/17,” the Inter-American Court on Human Rights ruled that countries party to the American Convention on Human Rights are required to legalize same-sex marriage and allow for people to change their name and gender on government documents to reflect their gender identity. Furthermore, the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights established a Rapporteurship on the Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Person in 2014 to further LGBTQI+ rights within the Organization of American States. Other regional bodies could follow this example.
- Leveraging existing international human right instruments, like the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the ICCPR, the world federalist movement should advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. For example, the Equal Rights Coalition, an intergovernmental organization advocating for the rights of LGBTQI+ persons, and Human Dignity Trust, a global civil society organization dedicated to protecting LGBTQI+ rights through human rights law, both support leveraging CEDAW to advance the decriminalization of LGBTQI+ people worldwide. Notably, on Feb. 21, 2022, CEDAW issued the Decision on Communication No. 134/2018, ruling that a Sri Lankanlawcriminalizingconsensual, same-sexintimacy between women was a violation of their human rights.
PROMULGATING NEW LEGAL AND GLOBAL GOVERNANCE MECHANISMS FOR PROTECTION
- Calling for an inclusive UN and civil society-led conference and declaration in support of LGBTQI+ rights as an integral part of the UNDR, similar to the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, which resulted in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. This conference and subsequent declaration could focus on enhancing international support for the Yogyakarta Principles. World federalist organizations like CGS could lead the way by holding a preliminary forum on global governance and LGBTQI+ rights and campaigning for a subsequent conference involving the UN
- Buildingonthe Independent Expert’s recommendations laid out in his July 2022 report presented to the United Nations General Assembly (A/77/235), world federalists should campaign for LGBTQI+ issues to be incorporated into the Women, Peace and Security Agenda, an international peace framework drawn up by the Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, to draw more attention to the specific challenges facing LGBTQI+ people in conflict zones. Furthermore, incorporating provisions on LGBTQI+ rights into the People’s Pactfor the Future, a compilation of civil society recommendations regarding the 2024 Summit of the Future, would be a definite step toward ensuring that LGBTQI+ rights are included in international
- Supporting an additional international human rights convention specifically dedicated to LGBTQI+ rights to hold countries accountable for their treatment of LGBTQI+ citizens and compel national governments to act to counter anti-LGBTQI+ discrimination and This convention would resemble CEDAW and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination , and could be centered around the Yogyakarta Principles.
- Campaigning to ensure that the new Treaty on Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Humanity covers LGBTQI+ rights, as discussed
ESTABLISHING GOVERNANCE STRUCTURES AND INSTITUTIONS TO ENSURE ACCOUNTABILITY
- Creating a UN Civil Society Envoy, supported by world federalist organizations like Democracy Without Borders, which would enhance the representation of civil society in the UN system. As civil society organizations are spearheading the movement for LGBTQI+ rights throughout the world, a UN Civil Society Envoy could help ensure greater visibility of the LGBTQI+ movement in the UN system, provided that LGBTQI+ civil society organizations actively engage with the envoy by proposing initiatives to protect LGBTQI+
- Implementing the UN World Citizens’ Initiative, which would enable global citizens to propose initiatives before the UN bodies like the UN General Assembly or the Security Council, augmenting civilian involvement in the UN system. This mechanism could further enhance the visibility and strengthen the voice of marginalized groups throughout the world, including LGBTQI+ As in the case of a UN Civil Society Envoy, global citizens would have to actively participate in the initiative to effectively advance LGBTQI+ rights.
- Advocating for the establishment of a World Court of Human Rights (WCHR), which would look to the UDHRforguidancetoensurethathumanrightsarebeing universally observed and create a universal standard for protecting human rights, including LGBTQI+
- Calling for the establishment of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) which, in conjunction with the UN General Assembly, would eventually be able to pass binding resolutions regarding issues of global concern, including the rights of LGBTQI+
As advocates for democratic world federation, we have a responsibility to actively engage with civil society organizations and people around the world that are committed to advancing human rights. By earnestly seeking ways to engage with civil society in the human rights sphere, we will enhance public awareness of the relevance of democratic world federation to human rights, including LGBTQI+ rights, while laying a global foundation for addressing human rights issues that is based on binding world law and more effective global governance institutions.
In today’s turbulent world, world federalists have much to offer civil society organizations that are eager for unique perspectives on how to address escalating attacks on civil liberties and human rights. Let us not miss the moment; the time to advance democratic world federation is now.
Mondial is published by the Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) and World Federalist Movement — Canada (WFM-Canada), non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental Member Organizations of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Government Policy (WFM-IGP). Mondial seeks to provide a forum for diverse voices and opinions on topics related to democratic world federation. The views expressed by contributing authors herein do not necessarily reflect the organizational positions of CGS or WFM-Canada, or those of the Masthead membership.